Writer Director: Shyam Benegal
Lead Cast: Shreyas Talpade and Amrita Rao…Produced by Ronnie Screwa
Once in while comes a movie to prove that Indian scripting and portrayal of emotions in Indian movies do meet or even surpass international standards. Yes people, the latest Shyam Benegal movie does that with class, as his movies have done it several times in the past.
You don’t need hi-fi technicality or copies of Hollywood stunt sequences to make a movie enjoyable and at the same time mesmerize the audience and show them what high end cinema would look like. All you need is a good script, actors who suit the roles and a vision of what you want on the screen.
Mahadev played by Shreyas Talpade is a letter writer in the village of ‘Sajjanpur’ who charges the people a meager 1 or 2 rupees for writing letters. Even though the film has a lot of clichéd characters like a child widow, a powerful and corrupt sarpanch (village head) etc. Benegal doesn’t use these characters in the traditional way, but, instead he uses them to create such pleasant comedy and drama which you never want to move away from.
Amrita Rao playing Kamla is Mahadev’s school mate and lives in the neighboring village. Once she comes to him for writing a letter to her husband (Banshi) who left for Bombay 4 years ago in search of employment and never came back. In course of time Mahadev keeps posting letters to Banshi at his own discretion to somehow win Kamla for whom he had a crush since his childhood.
The parallel stories in the movie include the love episode of a compounder in the local clinic and girl named Shobha Rani widowed because of child marriage and also the local election scene which includes the corrupt x-sarpanch Yashpal Sharma playing Ramsingh and the amusing Ravi Jhankal playing a eunuch (Munnibhai) who also runs for the election opposing Ramsingh’s wife.
The movie’s best moments are the scenes where Munnibhai comes to Mahadev’s place at night for help and the last letter from Banshi. All the actors have given top notch performances and Amrita Rao without question is at her best in this film. And do watch out for a few surprises at the end of the film.
The best thing about this movie is that after a long time one gets to see a movie with true to life Indian characters, costumes and conditions which are to be found rarely in today’s Hindi cinema